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EXPEDITION UNDER DUPONT AND SHERMAN.
PECULIARITIES OF THE WAR AGAINST SECESSION-FEDERAL EXPEDITION UNDER COMMODORE DUPONT AND GENERAL SHERMAN-ITS DEPARTURE FROM ANNAPOLIS-ITS DESTINATIONTERRIBLE STORM NEAR CAPE HATTERAS-THE EXPEDITION REACHES PORT ROYAL-REBEL FORTS ON BAY POINT AND HILTON HEAD-THEIR BOMBARDMENT-THEIR STRENGTHINCIDENTS OF THE ATTACK-SURRENDER OF THE FORTS-RESULTS OF THE ENGAGEMENTSKETCH OF ITS HERO, COMMODORE DUPONT-NAVAL DISASTER BELOW NEW ORLEANS CAPTAIN JOHN POPE-EVENTS IN MISSOURI-BOLD ACHIEVEMENT OF COLONEL ZAGONYI NEAR SPRINGFIELD-THE BATTLE OF BELMONT-GENERAL U. S. GRANT-INCIDENTS OF THE ENGAGEMENT AT BELMONT-ITS RESULTS-DISMISSAL OF GENERAL FREMONT FROM HIS DEPARTMENT OF THE WEST-CAUSES OF HIS REMOVAL-HIS ADMIRABLE DEMEANOR ON THIS OCCASION-HIS SUBSEQUENT APPOINTMENT AS COMMANDER OF THE MOUNTAIN DEPARTMENT OF VIRGINIA AND TENNESSEE.
WHOEVER examines with attention the operations of the Federal forces during the progress of the war against Secession, will observe that, from the nature of the case, it must become a conflict involving extensive military combinations and far-reaching strategy. The immense area of territory which was to be recovered, the numerous armies which were to be subdued, rendered it absolutely necessary that various movements should be effected from different points at nearly the same time; that those points should, while steadily pursuing their separate paths of victory, gradually converge toward a central position; and that, at that position, a few resistless blows should demolish the concentrated military strength of the Rebel States. This principle will furnish the key to the subsequent aggressive movements of the Federal troops which occurred, and which were made as soon as the necessary preliminary preparations could be effected.
The Rebel States were still convulsed with that frantic and exaggerated exultation which usually elated them at the attainment of the least success, in consequence of their victory at Ball's Bluff, when sudden terror and apprehension overtook them. The cause of this revulsion of feeling was the departure of a powerful Federal fleet from Annapolis, for some unknown destination in the South. This armament consisted of nearly fifty vessels, including those used for transport, and was placed under the orders of Commodore Samuel F. Dupont. The expedition had been in preparation for several months, and was fitted out under the combined auspices of the Army and Navy Departments at Washington. General Thomas W. Sherman commanded the land forces which were embarked in the transports. The fleet sailed from Annapolis on the 21st of October, 1861, and proceeded to Hampton Roads near Fortress Monroe. The last necessary preparations there having been completed, the vast squadron
left its anchorage at early dawn on the 29th of October. A signal gun was fired from the commodore's flag ship, the Wabash, which led the way; immediately afterward the fleet formed in line and proceeded seaward through the capes. The stately and numerous array, as it sailed toward the broad bosom of the ocean, presented one of the most magnificent spectacles which the imagination can conceive.
This land and naval force was destined to invade the territory of South Carolina; and by a just but singular act of retribution, the very spot on which many of the designs of the conspirators had been originally conceived, or at a later day matured, was destined to become desolated by the presence and the terror of the Federal troops; for Beaufort, in the vicinity of Port Royal, had been the sumptuous summer retreat of some of those men, whose names will forever remain prominently connected with the annals of the Rebellion.
When the advancing fleet reached a position in the vicinity of Cape Hatteras, it was assailed by one of the most furious tempests which ever swept the surface of the deep. Excellent seamanship alone preserved it from destruction. In spite, however, of the utmost efforts of fortitude and skill, two transports were lost during the storm. At length, on the morning of the 7th of November, the fleet, with the flag-ship in the advance, reached the mouth of Port Royal Entrance. At that spot two Rebel fortifications frowned over the waves, and menaced the commerce of the loyal States. They were named Forts Walker and Beauregard, after two prominent Rebel chiefs. It was with some difficulty that the larger vessels of the Federal fleet could be brought over the bar, two miles in width; but the skill of Commodore Dupont, and the determination of his troops, ultimately effected that result. Their merit in regard to this achievement was the greater, in consequence of the fact, that all the usual aids to navigation had been removed from that vicinity by the vigilance and industry of the Rebels.
At half-past nine, on the morning of the 7th of November, the Federal ships cleared for action, were brought within range, and the bombardment of the two forts commenced. These were located on Bay Point and Hilton Head. They were stongly garrisoned, containing eighteen hundred men; and were protected by a fleet of seven gunboats under the command of Captain Tatnal. As the Union ships approached the forts, the vessels of that officer, which might be fitly termed a diminutive fleet, began to fire. But they were soon chased, by a few well-directed shots, beyond the reach of the Federal guns, and were dispersed among the obscure streams leading toward Savannah. The bombardment of the forts was then continued with vigor. It had been agreed between the two Federal commanders, that the naval troops should alone be employed during the bom bardment. The land forces therefore remained, though unwillingly, idle spectators of the scene. The ships of war took positions six hundred yards
SURRENDER OF THE REBEL FORTS.
distant from the forts, and frequently engaged the batteries on both sides at the same time.
The Rebel forts had been constructed with skill, and were provided with heavy guns and abundant supplies. Their cannon responded at first to those of the Federal fleet with rapidity, but rarely with precision. They therefore produced little damage to their assailants. It soon became evident that their defense was useless, and the conquest of the works inevitable. The overwhelming hailstorm of shot and shell which was poured upon the forts without intermission, and with superior accuracy of aim, was rapidly rendering them untenable. The large and increasing number of their killed and wounded, was convincing the Rebels that their doom was sealed. Their own guns in the forts were at length so badly served, that they frequently did more damage to their gunners than to their assailants. After a contest of four hours, the Rebels abandoned their works, and commenced a precipitate retreat. They carried their wounded and some of their dead with them. At a quarter before three o'clock they struck their flag on Fort Walker, and before evacuating it ran up a white one. The Federal fleet, at a signal from Commodore Dupont, then ceased firing, and Captain Rodgers was sent ashore to ascertain the state of affairs. He found the fort deserted, and precisely at three o'clock, he unfurled the stars and stripes from the summit of the flag-staff. The glorious ensign was then greeted by long and enthusiastic cheers from the thousands of patriotic sailors and soldiers who manned the fleet, which echoed far and wide over the land and the sea. At nearly the same time Fort Beauregard was evacuated by the Rebels, and with the same precipitation which characterized their flight from Fort Walker.
It should be noted that, during this attack, the Federal fleet did not remain stationary. As the Rebel forts were situated two miles and a half apart, on opposite sides of the strait, the ships continually made a détour in a line, by which means they came within range of the forts successively. They thus formed a formidable procession, resembling a concourse of destroying angels, who, with inexorable vengeance, approached the Rebel works from time to time, to inflict deserved destruction upon them. Each ship of war, as it passed, remained within range about twenty minutes; and each of them delivered, during that interval, a very large number of shells. The spectacle thus presented was one of the most novel and imposing which could be imagined; while the shriek of the deadly missiles as they coursed through the heavens, and the far resounding reverberation of the guns, which was heard both at Savannah and at Charleston, added to the intense interest of the scene.
After the evacuation of the forts the process of landing the Federal troops immediately began. Though only a portion of them were then required on shore, the transfer of all of them was completed before night
fall. Fort Walker, at Hilton Head, was found to be a work of great strength and of colossal proportions. It covered an area of four acres, was angular in form, was surrounded by a deep ditch, and mounted twenty-four guns. Three of these had been disabled during the contest. Twenty-six dead bodies were counted in and near the fort, and it is probable that the killed and wounded of the Rebels numbered several hundreds. At a later period discoveries were made which justified the belief that their loss had been very heavy. The Federal loss was eight killed and twenty wounded. It should not be inferred, however, from They this circumstance, that the guns of the Rebels had been inefficient. occasionally reached the objects of their aim. Thus the Wabash was struck thirty times. Nearly every vessel which had been engaged, bore some token of the assiduous attentions of the Rebel marksmen. The spoils of the conquest were considerable. A large amount of ammunition was taken, with various stores of necessaries and even of luxuries. It became evident from an inspection of the forts, that the enemy had abandoned them with the utmost trepidation. Innumerable articles of value were strewn around in confusion, and the soldiers were enriched by no insignificant plunder. Swords, pistols, guns, some of which were richly mounted, watches, jewelry, and even money were found. The entire number of cannon captured was forty-three. Many of these were of very heavy calibré. Both forts were soon filled with Federal troops, and thus a permanent position was effectually secured on the soil of South Carolina.
This great victory filled the inhabitants of that chivalrous State with terror. This feeling soon degenerated into a panic among the inhabitants of the immediate vicinity, and especially among those of Charleston and Savannah. Of dwellers in the nearer Beaufort, there were no longer any left, except the jubilant negro population. All others had fled in the utmost dismay, and had sought refuge in more distant retreats. General Sherman, after taking possession of the forts, issued a proclamation, in which he endeavored to allay the fears of the people, to explain the real purpose of the expedition, and to reclaim the fugitive Rebels back to loyalty to the Federal Government.
Commodore Dupont, to whom the chief glory of this important conquest belonged, was born in New Jersey, and entered the naval service in 1815. During the forty-five years which he spent in that service, he occupied with honor a number of important positions. In 1836 he commanded the Warren, and cruised in the West Indies. In 1843 he commanded the brig Perry, on the same station, and subsequently the Congress and the Cyane. In 1859 he was appointed commandant of the Philadelphia navy yard. He had then spent twenty-two years at sea, and nine years in active duty on shore. The high reputation which he had won by energy and ability in various posts of danger and responsibility, amply